January 5, 1992: This Once, Good Time To Gloat

You’ve got to work hard to get the mild-mannered Redskins mad enough to talk trash about you after they crush you. But the Atlanta Falcons and Jerry Glanville managed to do it.

However, the Redskins made an exception in the case of the dancing, posturing, bragging, black-clad renegade Falcons. The Redskins got more than moved. They got steamed. “The Eagles talk to intimidate guys, and, sad to say, sometimes it works,” said Mann. “The Falcons just talk to hear themselves talk. . . .”

“Did I say that?” Mann then said in disbelief. “You guys are going to loosen me up and get me to say something I’m not supposed to say.” Mann shouldn’t worry. He wasn’t alone. Far from it. For once, the tight-lipped USS Gibbs was awash in almost Falcon-like quotes. The large choirboys finally spoke up.

”When they sent their whole team out to midfield {as captains} for the introductions, I kind of laughed,” said John Brandes, the Redskins’ leading special teams hitter. “I said, ‘These guys will do anything to get attention. If Glanville could ride his Harley out to midfield, he probably would.’

”As soon as they did that, I thought, ‘We’re going to kick these boys’ behinds and they’re going to look like fools.’ They make everybody in the league look bad. And it all starts with the coach. They reflect Glanville just like we reflect Joe Gibbs.”

As usual, the Falcons did everything imaginable to inspire themselves in extracurricular matters. Deion Sanders taunted the crowd before the opening kickoff, waving for them to boo him more loudly. Then he all but disappeared for the rest of the day, except, that is, for an end zone penalty to set up the Redskins’ clinching touchdown.

”I know the stuff they did fired me up,” said Mann. “During warm-ups, {Tim} McKyer was talkin’ a mess. I said, ‘These guys are going to try to come to our place and just take over? I don’t think so. . . . Of course, we knew they weren’t as confident as they acted. When you talk like that, you’re kind of hiding behind your words. But you know the real deal.”

The real deal was six Redskins takeaways, four Redskins sacks and 332 yards of Redskins offense on a day when the score could have been worse except for three missed Chip Lohmiller field goals. Ricky Ervins gained 104 yards on the ground.

Even the Falcons’ one defensive highlight turned into an embarrassment. Brian Jordan intercepted a Rypien pass, then lateraled to McKyer.

”That was not my best throw. You feel obligated to try to do something,” said Rypien, who, in his wildest dreams, could not have hoped for a pure-luck Dick Butkus kill tackle like the one he laid on McKyer, drilling him head over heels backward. Rypien got a running start. McKyer threw a fake. McKyer slipped in the mud. And, all of a sudden, the 234-pound Rypien was running through and over the 174-pound McKyer. QB lick of the decade.

By contrast, the only time Rypien was touched all day was when the Falcons jumped across the line on a delay-of-game penalty against Washington and took a borderline cheap shot at him. “Oh,” said Rypien dryly, “you mean their ‘sack’?” Three Falcons butted heads in celebration of their non-play.

”It’s great to beat these guys . . . They don’t even respect 56-17,” said Brandes, referring to the score of these teams’ meeting here Nov. 10. “They’ve been singing and dancing and making videos {since then} . . . If they’d won, they’d still be out on the 50-yard line {celebrating} . . . We’ve been waiting for ‘em all week.”

Glanville, dressed in black, called numerous inspirational impromptu team meetings on the sideline when the proceedings turned dire. By the third such caucus, Glanville’s raised hand was met by only two Falcons’ hands.

Ironically, after Glanville had sprinted off the field without shaking any hands or even acknowledging Gibbs, the two teams seemed to exchange personalities, to a degree. Glanville gave the Redskins credit as the better team and talked in a whisper. The Redskins simply could not contain themselves.

”I was watching them arrive in town last night on TV, in their mink coats,” said kick returner Brian Mitchell. “I thought they were movie stars. At some point, you’ve got to go on the field and be a football team. We were better at that.”

If anything, the Redskins seemed a bit hurt that both heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and rap singer Hammer would adopt the Falcons. Both were in the Atlanta clubhouse after the game where few words were spoken, although “Wild Thing” played defiantly at 100 decibels.

”I used to be a Hammer fan, but I’m disappointed in him now,” said Brandes, who did a mock-Hammer dance on the sideline after the score reached 24-7. “Who can we get?” said Mann. “We’re only the president’s second favorite team. I think Dan Quayle is a big fan.”

The way this season has gone it sometimes seems the Redskins have a far more influential rooter than any mere U.S. president. Has any NFL team ever had a better run of great breaks?

Just a week ago, it looked as if Washington’s first-round foe would be the very tough Dallas Cowboys, who match up as well as any team with the 15-2 Redskins. Then the marginally good Falcons upset New Orleans, providing Washington with the weakest available opponent.

Today, the Redskins may catch one or even two more breaks. The Cowboys must go to Detroit to play a Lions team that beat them 34-10 this season. Next weekend, the Redskins would love to host the Lions, whom they beat 45-0, rather than the Cowboys, whom they beat early, 33-31, but who beat them later, 24-21.

As for the AFC, Buffalo must face a Chiefs team today that smash-mouthed the Bills 33-6 during the season. Is it possible the Redskins could go to the Super Bowl by beating the Falcons and Lions (teams they beat 101-17) then meet a team in Minneapolis which is not the fearsome, balanced, no-huddle Bills?

A month ago, the Redskins wished the 49ers, Giants and Eagles would disappear from the playoff picture. They all vanished. Then, they dreamed of avoiding New Orleans and Dallas. Lo and behold, that may happen. From the moment Barry Sanders came up lame before the opener with the Lions in RFK, the Redskins have been on a roll of helpful opponent injuries and lovely schedule breaks.

Whatever the Redskins need to bring out their best, they seem to get. Even if it’s Jerry Glanville’s attitude, Tim McKyer’s mouth or Deion Sanders’s feet.